A step into prehistoric Prince Edward Island

Islanders will soon get additional insights into the prehistoric landscape of PEI with the recent discovery of a fossilized trackway or series of footprints of a reptile-like mammal that lived 100 million years before dinosaurs.

Found near Cavendish PEI National Park in May of 2018, the large footprints have been confirmed as those of the sail-backed Bathygnathus borealis, commonly known as the Dimetrodon, the top predator of its time. While fossils are located in various places across the Island, these footprints are of particular significance because they tell us that our Island’s red shores hold Canada’s richest terrestrial fossil record of the Permian period. This also underscores Prince Edward Island as a globally important paleontological location. 

“While most of Canada as we know it today was submerged under water, Prince Edward Island was one of the few places with life on land before dinosaurs even walked the earth. Fossils, like pictures, capture a unique moment in time. Their discovery allows us to glean information about the earth’s past, to understand how we have come to be where we are now,” said Wade MacLauchlan, Premier of Prince Edward Island and Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and Archaeology.

“This exciting discovery will undoubtedly spark the interests of palaeontologists from around the world, as well as Islanders looking to further uncover what makes Prince Edward Island the Mighty Island.”

“The exciting discovery of a globally important fossil in our very own Prince Edward Island National Park reveals how much history lies within our national parks,” said the Honourable Wayne Easter, Member of Parliament for Malpeque. “This find provides us with a new perspective on this treasured place and an appreciation for its history. The Government of Canada is pleased to be working in collaboration with the Province of Prince Edward Island to not only protect this significant find, but to share stories about PEI’s millions of years of natural history in new and exciting ways.”

"Prince Edward Island holds Canada’s only fossil record of life on land in the Permian Period, almost 300 million years ago”, said Dr. John Calder from the Department of Geology at Saint Mary’s University. ”The fossil legacy of the Island has reached a point where it stands proudly on the world stage."

Contact the provincial archaeologist by email archaeology@gov.pe.ca or by phone 902.368.6895 if you believe you have found a fossil. Contact Parks Canada at 1.877.852.3100 for potential fossils found in PEI National Park.


Media contacts:

Vicki Tse
Executive Council Office of Prince Edward Island


Jennifer Stewart
A/External Relations Manager, Parks Canada - PEI

General Inquiries

Indigenous Relations Secretariat
2nd Floor
3 Brighton Road
Charlottetown, PE C1A 8T6

Phone: 902-368-6895
Fax: 902-569-7545